Monday, 2 December 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. Our dairy farmers are receiving 58c a litre, 1c less than pre-deregulation, 22 years ago. Wouldn't you agree that, since Woolworths and Coles apply, at their discretion, 20c per litre, then clearly supply and demand are not determining price? Wouldn't describing 6,000 sellers meeting two buyers as a free market be an ultimate hypocrisy? Surely you'd agree that anything less than a minimum price will ensure continued decline and unspeakable cruelty to farmers, employees and all other persons who depend upon this industry?
To the member for Kennedy: I respectfully disagree. He will know full well that the last time we had a floor price for an agricultural commodity was with wool. What floor prices effectively do is that they create an oversupply. They create an oversupply and, when you're talking about an industry that has a perishable product, you would be creating a cruel hoax in what is a complicated situation, more so than the simplistic notions—
Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting—
I take the interjection from the member for Hunter, who after his near-death political experience on 18 May by the National Party and One Nation has found a conscience and a voice by giving a cruel hoax to those dairy farmers and not tackling the problem with common sense and maturity. It is far more complicated than that. Not only would you create an oversupply but you will also recklessly put at risk the international trade agreements that we have put in place, not just for dairy but for every other commodity. If you are a beef producer in Kennedy, you will be terrified by the fact that this would tear away at the trade agreements this government has put in place.
We are a nation of 25 million people. We produce enough food for 75 million people. If we don't engage with the world and we don't trade with the world, then you do not need rural communities. You do not need agriculture. So it's important that we have a multifaceted approach. One is around the mandatory code of conduct, which will be in place as soon as the final consultation takes place. It's important to ensure we get that right, that we don't have reckless actions like those opposite would have which would put at risk getting the mandatory code of conduct right. We're also putting in place a market platform that will allow dairy farmers, like with other commodities, to have more market balance and trade their commodities like with grain, cotton or any other agricultural commodity, equalising the balance within the marketplace. We've also created a unit within the ACCC to ensure that dairy is looked at in isolation and make sure that any market manipulation is dealt with by the regulator.
But we've all got a role to play in making sure we fix this. It's not just governments—and those are the actions the governments are taking—but also processors and supermarkets. The supermarkets, at my insistence, got rid of the $1-a-litre milk when I was agriculture minister and they found a mechanism to get that back to the farm gate. The Australian supermarkets need to lead with the Australian government and the industry to allow this transition of policy framework to take place to ensure that the marketplace is equitable and viable for all dairy farmers into the future.